Making Kimchi with the Urban Homesteaders’ League

by Mara Eyllon on October 1, 2010


Lisa Gross demonstrates how to make kimchi

Headed up by founder Lisa Gross, the Urban Homesteaders’ League is holding an experiential learning series at the Union Square Farmers Market. Last Saturday, Gross accompanied by members Diana Limbach and Andi Sutton, demonstrated methods for making kimchi and other techniques for properly preserving fruits and vegetables for wintertime consumption.

 Kimchi, a popular fermented Korean dish typically prepared with Napa cabbage, fresh ginger, garlic and brine, was traditionally stored in large pots, buried underground where the cool, dark environment would keep the kimchi consumption-ready for months. Laden with vitamins (C, Carotene, A, Thiamin Riboflavin, Calcium and Iron) and lactic acid bacteria, Kimchi and other Asian variants have provided an important source of nutrients from the seventh century forward. More recently, Kimchi was voted to be one of the five healthiest foods by Health Magazine.

Experimentation in the production of this flavorful, vitamin rich dish is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, where fermentation workshops, demonstrations and even preservation parties are popping up in large urban areas. Thanks to Gross and her team of Urban Homesteaders, Villens can now experience the health benefits of homemade Kimchi, which is not only easy to make, but great for adding a spicy snap to simple meals. Kimchi may be stir fried with rice or meat, used to flavor soups, or eaten with a fried egg for a quick dinner.

Gross, who was inspired by the memory of her Korean grandmother making kimchi on the kitchen floor strewn with old newspapers, went through the step-by-step process of its preparation, which begins by soaking the cabbage in brine for 4-5 hours. While it takes about two days to prepare in entirety, the labor involved is minimal.

Kimchi may then be stored in the refrigerator where it keeps for months, although Gross warns that the it will continue to ferment during refrigeration, becoming increasingly more sour. For those who dislike aggressive tartness, she recommends stir-frying riper Kimchi with rice and a few drops of sesame oil to soften the flavor.

Post Somerville Test Kitchen put Gross’ recipe to the test this week, using a Nappa cabbage from Nicewicz Farm in Bolton. Regrettably, we only made one batch that was quickly devoured. The Kimchi was perfectly balanced, rivaling many of the homemade and industrially prepared varieties of Kimchi we’ve tried. The Korean red pepper powder added a subtle kick and the final dish reveals hints of ginger, garlic and Asian pear, which Gross suggests using as a sweetening agent instead of processed sugar.


Urban Homesteaders’ Nappa Cabbage Kimchi


1 head Napa cabbage

½ cup coarse sea salt

4 cups water

1 tbs chopped garlic

1 tbs grated ginger root

2 chopped scallions

½ cup Kochu Kadu (Korean red pepper powder, available at Reliable Mart in Union Square)

2 tbs fish sauce

1 apple or Asian pear, peeled and grated


Prepare brine by mixing ¼ cup sea salt with 4 cups water in a large in a large, non-reactive bowl. Halve cabbage lengthwise and soak in brine for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup of salt in between the leaves and stems of the cabbage, and set aside for 4-5 hours, or until stems and leaves start to wither (this could take up to eight hours).

Prepare spice mix by combining red pepper, garlic, ginger, fish sauce and grated fruit in a separate non-reactive bowl.

Thoroughly rinse brine from cabbage and strain. Chop cabbage into 1 inch chunks, and use your hands to combine thoroughly with spice mixture. Pack the kimchi tightly into cleaned glass jars, leaving at least one inch at the top.

Cover Kimchi with a paper towel and set on the counter to ferment for 24 hours. Once the kimchi starts to ferment, remove paper towel, tightly seal the jar and refrigerate. The kimchi is now ready to eat. Gross stresses the importance of tightly sealing the jar to prevent the odors from releasing into the refrigerator.

 The experiential learning station can be found at the Oct. 9, Oct. 23 and Oct. 30 farmers markets from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Andi Sutton demonstrates method for pickling garlic

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

britt October 1, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Daniel’s first kimchi!

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